The Brenham City Council on Thursday gave the ok to changes to the city zoning ordinance that are targeted at expanding options for housing.
Among the approved ordinance revisions are adjusting R-1 single-family residential zoning to allow duplexes and twin homes on lots of at least 7,500 square feet, as long as they receive specific use permits from the city council and Planning and Zoning Commission. The council’s vote on the item was 5-1, with Mayor Atwood Kenjura voting against. Councilmember Shannan Canales was absent.
Development Services Director Stephanie Doland said this change came about from discussions held by the city-appointed housing task force, letting residential lots that are larger than the standard 7,000 square feet accommodate different forms of housing with the safeguard of needing approval first from the council and Planning and Zoning.
Kenjura said he was opposed because he views R-1 zoning as “sacred” for neighborhood residential and does not feel this does enough to solve Brenham’s housing shortage. He said while there are the protections of needing council and Planning and Zoning support, he wants to ensure that any complaints from residents adjacent to or nearby new development are heard. He also said situations where someone buys a home, tears it down and puts up twin homes are not out of the realm of possibility.
One audience member also spoke against the change, saying he was worried about housing coming in that does not fit the existing neighborhood.
Mayor Pro Tem Clint Kolby said he understood the concerns shared, but felt the intent of the housing tax force was to eliminate barriers for rental housing and open up the market more, a sentiment shared by Councilmember Leah Cook. Kolby said he does not believe the city will be “inundated” with requests to put duplexes in R-1 zoning districts, while Cook asked how many developers would want to build something in an area where it noticeably contrasts with its surroundings. Cook also said she did not feel instances of teardowns would be commonplace, and in some cases where a broken-down house is being removed, the new development could actually be an improvement.
Other ordinance changes approved on Thursday were unanimous and did not come with much discussion. They were to adjust R-2 mixed residential zoning to allow accessory dwelling units and twin homes as permitted uses, rather than specific uses, and include parameters for twin home and townhome developments; delete information on noise regulations that duplicates or contradicts the city’s noise nuisance ordinance; and remove provisions that allowed conditions to be placed upon variance requests.
One bullet on the list of ordinance revisions received no vote from the council, that being an item clarifying the definition of food truck sites to prohibit the storage of food trucks on residential property. Doland said city staff needs to look “holistically” at the storage of all kinds of tow-behind vehicles within residential districts, including RVs, travel trailers and boats, rather than just food trucks. The item will come back to council at a later date.